One thing I have continuously observed, over the past five years that I've been coaching, is that many clients don't question why they want the things they want in their lives. Most people know they want this, or that, but when asked why, they are generally stumped.
The thing is, often it's not the role or goal that they desire but the feeling that comes from achieving it. For instance, one might go into law or medicine because these professions tend to pay well however the actual desire is to feel secure.
Life coach, Martha Beck, calls this "find the feeling." She too learned from her practice that people are chasing feelings not things or people. Beck also saw that even when clients achieved their set goals it did not necessarily bring about the anticipated feeling they were seeking e.g., belonging, love, comfort. This is why one can go into law or medicine, earn a lot of money, and still feel insecure. She believes external circumstances do not create feeling states. Feeling states create external circumstances.[i]
Beck’s finding is similar to the happiness gap I've discussed in earlier blog posts. The gap, between you and your happiness, is created when you think an external thing/person will make you happy, e.g. "When I get a house, I will be happy" or "I'll be happy or less lonely when I get a partner." The truth is you could get the house and partner and still feel unhappy or lonely. The trick is to feel content with what you already have, with who you are now, and to pursue the things from that place. That's what I did, and it worked.
I took a big risk when I went from teaching to coaching. The dominant feelings I desired, before making the change, were joy and freedom. I was sick and tired of the work/life imbalance I was experiencing as a teacher. I knew I loved teaching but not in the classroom form. Despite being on my own, I continued to tap into the feelings of joy and freedom, and now over five years later, I am still coaching and experiencing those feelings. Sure, it may not always come easy, and I definitely have had moments of fear, however, if you are finding that being in your desired feelings challenging there are professionals, like coaches, that can help you with that.
Life coaches, for instance, can help you distinguish between egoic desires and true desires, between your social self and your essential self (your socially constructed self, e.g., shaped by parental and societal expectations, versus your core self, e.g., what you value and want without external influences). Getting clear about these matters will help you identify the feelings you desire to feel and go for things that complement and extend those feelings.
Here is an exercise to get you started:
1. What does your social self want?
2. What does your essential self want?
3. Imagine you achieved all your social self goals. How do you feel?
4. Imagine you achieved all your essential self desires. How do you feel?
5. Are the answers to three and four the same or different? If they are same, then great. If different, what feelings are more accurate, and authentic, to you?
Remember to identify feeling states such as ease or calm. If you are choosing words outside of that, such as goals, outcomes, etc., it's an indication your social self is guiding these choices, or you may be having difficulties identifying your feelings. Again, you can see a professional to help you with both.
This said, I hope you find the feelings you are seeking and perhaps reassess your new year’s goals based on that. Danielle Laporte, author of The Desire Map, did just that. Years ago, she went through her new year resolution list and found her goals uninspiring and pushy. Instead, she wrote the feelings she wanted to feel in the new year and felt tremendously better.
If this is how you feel about your goals, no need to feel that way. Identify the feelings you want from your listed aims and feel better. What is one feeling you can choose to feel now?
I would love to know.
Ps. If you feel you need extra support with this, and would like to work with a coach, contact me for a Get Acquainted Call to see if I can help.
[i] From Beck, M. N. (2009). Steering by starlight: The science and magic of finding your destiny. Emmaus, PA: Rodale.